The mass assembly of galaxy groups and the evolution of the magnitude gap

AA Dariush, Somak Raychaudhury, Trevor Ponman, HG Khosroshahi, AJ Benson, RG Bower, F Pearce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

72 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate the assembly of groups and clusters of galaxies using the Millennium dark matter simulation and the associated Millennium gas simulations, and semi-analytic catalogues of galaxies. In particular, in order to find an observable quantity that could be used to identify early-formed groups, we study the development of the difference in magnitude between their brightest galaxies to assess the use of magnitude gaps as possible indicators. We select galaxy groups and clusters at redshift z = 1 with dark matter halo mass M(R-200) >= 10(13) h(-1)M(circle dot), and trace their properties until the present time (z = 0). We consider only the systems with X-ray luminosity X-L,bol >= 0.25 x 10(42) h(-2) erg s(-1) at redshift z = 0. While it is true that a large magnitude gap between the two brightest galaxies of a particular group often indicates that a large fraction of its mass was assembled at an early epoch, it is not a necessary condition. More than 90 per cent of fossil groups defined on the basis of their magnitude gaps (at any epoch between 0 <z <1) cease to be fossils within 4 Gyr, mostly because other massive galaxies are assembled within their cores, even though most of the mass in their haloes might have been assembled at early times. We show that compared to the conventional definition of fossil galaxy groups based on the magnitude gap Delta m(12) >= 2 (in the R-band, within 0.5 R-200 of the centre of the group), an alternative criterion m(14) >= 2.5 (within the same radius) finds 50 per cent more early-formed systems, and those that on average retain their fossil phase longer. However, the conventional criterion performs marginally better at finding earlyformed groups at the high-mass end of groups. Nevertheless, both criteria fail to identify a majority of the early-formed systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1873-1887
Number of pages15
JournalRoyal Astronomical Society. Monthly Notices
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010


  • galaxies: formation
  • cosmology: theory
  • methods: numerical
  • hydrodynamics
  • galaxies: kinematics and dynamics


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